A couple weeks back, I was wandering in Hell’s Kitchen in NYC, making my usual rounds at the Mexican taquerias and grocery stores (admittedly, this is an all too regular event) when I found myself gobbling a huitlacoche taco at the excellent Tehuitzingo. After a satisfying meal, I strolled past the beverage cooler, where amid the Mexican Coca-Cola, Jumex fruit nectars, and cervezas, I spotted a strange can that I had never seen before. But I knew instantly what it was. Pulque; my Shangri-La of bebidas. The odd fermented agave elixir, that defies description. It’s odd, and delicious, and is off-putting at first, but grows on you quickly until you find yourself with the warmest, most pleasant alcohol buzz. If you find yourself drinking it in the sun, you also find it exceedingly refreshing. Pulque has magical properties. And after decades of being marginalized in the face of commercial beer and tequila production, finally people are noticing.
Canned pulque, however, isn’t the same. It has been pasteurized, which neutralizes much of its beneficial digestive properties (particularly lactobacillus, the same bacteria that turns milk into yogurt). Compared to the real-deal, the flavor just isn’t the same. But it’s not bad. And plain pulque isn’t the only beverage on offer in a pulqueria. Pulque curado is just as popular, which is pulque natural blended with any number of fruits (strawberry, pineapple, or prickly pear most common), coconut, almond, or even celery. I searched a few sites and combined a few recipes to arrive at this delicious mango curado.
- 2 cans pulque (appx. 650mL)
- 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped mango
- 1/2 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon)
- Pulverize the half cinnamon stick by dropping it through the hole in the lid of a running blender, and quickly seal the lid. Stop the blender once the cinnamon is mostly pulverized.
- In the blender jar, add sweetened condensed milk, mango and pulque. Blend until liquified.
- Pour mixture into a bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill for ~1 hour.
- Before serving, pass mixture through a medium strainer to remove the stringy mango pulp and any larger cinnamon chunks.
- Serve chilled and in a glass (or ceramic mug if you’re a stickler for tradition).
This was really, really good. All of the flavors smoothly blend together, each one propelling the other into prominence. And considering that the pulque packs 6% alcohol by volume, it goes down very easy. The cinnamon highlights the tang of the mango and pulque. The sweetness propelling the bite of the cinnamon. And the maltiness of the pulque holds all the flavors together. Finally, the evaporated milk makes it frothy and dessert-like. If you can find canned pulque this is an excellent use for it. But good luck, I’m tapping my one and only source dry and until they restock, I have no idea where to go for more.
If you’re a fan of eggnog, you will love its Mexican cousin rompope. I first had it while visiting Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico in Spring of 2009, during the early days of Semana Santa. I was walking in the zocalo (the square in the center of most Mexican towns that is the hub of social life) observing the festivities. There were vendors selling colorful toys and decorations, food items, etc. One table had a large ceramic vitolero (large container used for aguas frescas), and several piles of ceramic mugs. The vendor would dip in a ladle, draw out a thick milky-looking beverage, hand you a mugful for a few pesos, which you could sip while wandering the square before returning it empty. Not knowing for certain what this beverage was, I paid for a mug, expecting pulque or horchata. However, when I lifted it to my lips, it was viscous, and sweet, and had the faint taste of alcohol. I wanted to like it, but it was so far from what I expected, I couldn’t finish it. Today, there’s a dead plant in Ajijic that was more surprised by its unexpected drink than I was.
Because I didn’t hate it, however, it stuck with me. And the more time that’s lapsed, the more I remember liking it, and wishing I had stuck it out. So when I begun planning a Semana Santa menu for Easter, the first thing to go on my list was rompope. And for my recipe, I turned once more to the wonderful Fany Gerson, by way of her My Sweet Mexico cookbook.
Source: My Sweet Mexico – Fany Gerson
- 1 qt. milk (I used whole milk, but I would imagine 1% or 2% would suit)
- 1 cup sugar
- pinch of baking soda
- 1 3″ cinnamon stick
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup good quality rum, pref. dark
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- In a large pot, combine the milk, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon stick, and bring to a light boil over medium-high heat.
- Once at a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. The milk/sugar mixture will reduce to appx. 3 cups.
- Place egg yolks in a heatproof bowl, and whisk briefly to combine into a consistent texture. Slowly pour 1 cup of the milk/sugar mixture into the egg yolk, whisking constantly as you do this.
- Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the pot, and cook over low heat until the consistency begins to thicken slightly; appx. 5 to 7 minutes.
- While the mixture is cooking over low, in a separate large bowl or sink, prepare a bowl in an ice water bath. Pour mixture into this bowl to drop the heat, and stop the rompope from cooking further.
- Stir in rum and vanilla and chill completely in the refrigerator before serving, over ice or without.
This came out exactly as I remembered in Ajijic; rich and sweet. But also incredibly delicious, with the rum highlighting the cinnamon and egg. Instead of tossing it in a bush, I served it for dessert, over ice with a bit drizzled over the top of capirotada.
If you’ve checked out the @BebidasBlog Twitter feed, you’d have seen I have a special bebida in the works, which requires a bit of patience and waiting (5 days so far!). Not wanting to lose momentum, I found myself with an over-the-hill cucumber and a bag of limes. Agua fresca!
If you’re ever in Mexico, aguas frescas are literally everywhere. Sodas are popular, but I bet they don’t hold a candle to aguas frescas; in part because they’re extremely easy to make, and are a great way to stretch the ingredients. You’ll frequently see a colorful line-up of vitroleros (large glass containers used for aguas frescas) decorating restaurant counters or market tables. The vendor dips a large ladle in, gives it all a stir, and draws it full to pour into a styrofoam cup (en vaso) or plastic baggie (en bolsa). Drink, enjoy, repeat.
There are an infinite variety of aguas frescas. They’re made from fruits, flowers, grains; anything you can imagine that would be delicious sweetened and served over ice. Cucumber-lime (agua pepino con limón) is a relatively common variety (though not as common as jamaica, horchata, melon, etc.), and is best enjoyed on a warm day. And the radioactive green is wonderful!
Source: Paletas – Fany Gerson
- 1 large cucumber
- 6 cups water
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 – 3 limes)
- 1/3 cup sugar, or more to taste
- Rinse cucumber, remove the ends and cut into slices. Place slices in a blender jar.
- Add water to blender jar and blend until cucumber is pureed.
- Strain cucumber/water mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a pitcher. Discard pulp.
- Add lime juice and sugar to pitcher; adjust sugar to taste.
- Chill completely and enjoy in a glass over ice.
This is super-easy to make. If I hadn’t stopped to take photos, start-to-finish would have taken 5 minutes, with the bulk of the time spent fishing the ingredients from their respective homes. The bang-to-buck ratio for this drink is extremely high, so once you try it, you’ll have no excuse to not enjoy it regularly. It’s too delicious not to!
The selection of this bebida is to celebrate the first person to find this blog through Google! You searched for achocote, and unfortunately you didn’t find what you were looking for here. No more! Random Googler, this drink’s for you!
Achocote is a bit of an enigma. The best I could find in English comes from the non-alcoholic drinks list; “in Hidalgo, water flavored with corn and unrefined brown sugar.” I started searching around for “recetas” (recipes in Spanish), and didn’t turn up any better information. However, behind some academic pay-wall was this recipe [PDF], along with a recipe for palanquetas (a nut/amaranth brittle candy), which I was able to retrieve using their free trial. The recipe comes from “Maryann Rodriguez, chef professor at the Mexican Institute of Gastronomy.”
The copy on the recipe is a bit poor, and worse using Google Translate. The milk/masa ratio seemed very off, and what I initially got was a very thick paste. Either the ratio in the original recipe is incorrect, or one is intended to mix this paste with water similar to what the Tarahumara do with pinole. I went with the incorrect ratio and adjusted the consistency with milk. I was pleased with the end result, but I can’t be 100% certain what I have is authentic. Onward!
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup prepared masa for tortillas (if using masa harina flour (eg. MaSeCa), reconstitute 1/2 cup flour with 1/3 cup water and mix to even consistency)
- 1/2 large piloncillo cone, finely chopped (or 4 tbsp brown sugar)
- In sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine milk and prepared masa.
- When milk/masa mixture is warm, add brown sugar and stir as sugar melts.
- Once ingredients are fully incorporated, remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Serve over ice and enjoy.
Champurrado is a chocolate version of the previously reviewed atole. Atole is often described as a masa-based porridge, sweetened with raw sugar (piloncillo). For my previous atole attempt, I relied on a Rick Bayless recipe and was slightly disappointed with the unexpectedly thin result. I stumbled across the recipes on the Latina Cocina and Hungry Sofia blogs and merged the two for this version of champurrado.
- 1 disc of Mexican chocolate (eg. Abuelita or Ibarra brands)
- 1/2 large cone of piloncillo, chopped (sub. generous 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tsp. molasses)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- zest from 1/2 orange (I used a knife to shave zest in large chunks, to be removed during cooking. A sharp knife is key to avoiding the bitter white pith. Use a grater, and leave zest in champurrado if it proves troublesome.)
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup masa harina (eg. MaSeCa flour), reconstituted with 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups milk
- In medium pot, combine chocolate, piloncillo, cinnamon stick, orange zest and 2 cups water and simmer on medium-low heat for ~15 minutes until chocolate and sugar have melted.
- While ingredients are simmering, combine masa flour and water in a bowl and whisk until evenly combined with no lumps.
- Once chocolate/sugar mixture is finished, remove and discard cinnamon stick and orange zest (if in strips. If grated, proceed).
- Add the masa mixture to pot along with the milk and bring to temperature, whisking to prevent clumping as it cooks.
- When mixture begins to gently simmer, remove from heat and serve in a mug.
The consistency of this was pretty much exactly what I was aiming for. Thick, porridge-like, coats your tongue, with the bonus of being rather filling. It also takes a long time to cool, so drink slowly and enjoy examining the layers of flavor. The orange zest, cinnamon, corn, chocolate… But this isn’t a light, before-bed drink. Having this after a sizable dinner, along with a bowl of fruit (in this case, the leftover orange with some papaya, a squirt of lime and some chile powder) might send you to bed groaning. But it is delicious, if a tad overly sweet. Next time, I’ll cut the sugar by 1/3, and serve it in my smallest mug, instead of my largest.
Atole (ah-TOE-lay) is another common pre-Columbian drink, often served in the mornings or the evenings. It is made of masa (corn processed with the mineral lime, and made into a paste) and flavored with a variety of ingredients. It can be made simply sweetened (as in this recipe), with fruit, chocolate (champurrado) or made savory with chiles (chileatole).
The below recipe comes from Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican cookbook.
- 1/2 cup masa (or ~1/2 cup masa harina [ie. MaSeCa flour] reconstituted with ~1/4 cup water)
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 2 cups milk
- 2 1/2 ounces piloncillo, chopped (~1/3 of a large piloncillo cone, or use 1/3 cup brown sugar along with a spoonful of molasses)
- If using masa harina reconstitute with hot tap water in a bowl.
- Add masa and 1 3/4 cup water to blender jar and blend to combine. (Feel free to add ~1 1/2 cups fruit in this step. Pineapple and strawberry are traditional, but be creative! If you do, reduce water by 1/4 cup.)
- Combine in a saucepan blended masa/water, sugar and milk. Heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until sugar is melted and atole is warm and begins to thicken slightly.
- Serve in a mug. Embellish with a dash of cinnamon or a small splash of vanilla.
Having never had atole before this trial, I was expecting something thick, and almost porridge like. This recipe came out more akin to hot chocolate; just slightly thicker than milk. The corn flavor, along with the cinnamon are what stands out here, and am curious to try it with fruit.
It’s quite delicious, and easy to make. It’s pretty quick to make as well, so if you’re in the habit of making chocolate milk on the stove using cocoa powder (vs. microwave, instant), I’d recommend giving this a try. Though considering the consistency was different than I expected, I might have to hunt around for other atole recipes to see if my expectations are off the mark.
For the introductory bebida on this blog, I decided to make tepache. Tepache (teh-PAH-che) is a popular fermented beverage in Mexico using raw brown sugar (piloncillo), pineapple rinds and spices. Tepache existed in pre-Columbian times, and only became more popular upon the arrival of the Spanish. This blog post suggests that the Spanish brewed tepache as a replacement for their beloved apple cider, using New World ingredients they had available to them upon arrival; cane sugar and pineapple. I can imagine they also loved it due to the fact that it is mildly alcoholic; approximately 3-5% ABV, by my guess. It also has the added bonus of being exceedingly easy to make, and delicious to boot.
Tepache is a popular drink, made in the home or served on the street. Often it is served over ice in plastic cups, or en bolsa, plastic bags tied at the top around a straw.
Because of tepache’s popularity, there are countless recipes available online. Some call for the addition of beer part way, presumably to speed fermentation. Some call for varying amounts of sugar (anywhere between 0 and 700g per liter). I waded through a number of recipes, and settled on one that seemed to work for me, sourced in part from LorenaLara144’s YouTube recipe (Spanish).
- the skin from one pineapple (with a little meat, enough to get the eyes)
- 16oz piloncillo (sub. dark brown sugar, if you’d like)
- 4 quarts of water
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional. Mexican canela preferred, I used the normal stuff)
- 3-5 whole cloves (optional)
- 3-5 whole allspice berries (optional)
- Dissolve sugar in 4 quarts of water. If using Mexican piloncillo cones, dissolve over heat, and cool to <100º F. If using brown sugar, stir until fully dissolved.
- Rinse and/or gently scrub pineapple in mildly warm water to remove any caked dirt or debris. The yeast that does the fermentation in this recipe live on the skin of the pineapple, and you don’t want to kill or remove it. (NOTE: If you are (rightfully) concerned about pesticides, I read here that Mexican pineapples use very little pesticides during cultivation, vs. their Hawaiian counterparts)
- Cut the skin from the pineapple, making sure to include a bit of the flesh (flavor and sugar). Cutting deep enough to remove the eyes leaves enough meat on the skin, and saves work when prepping pineapple flesh for eating. Add to corrosive-proof container (I used food-grade plastic. Glazed ceramic is traditional. Avoid metal.)
- Add cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice berries to container. Stir so everything is incorporated.
- Cover container with a towel and leave to ferment for 3-7 days. My first attempt required 6 days.
Several sources advised that you “don’t peek” until day 3. I failed, and peeked on day 2. The pineapple that was floating toward the top had developed a white fuzzy mold, which I was afraid would spread. I retrieved the effected pieces, cut the moldy bits off and returned them to the container. I then placed a bowl wide enough to submerge the pineapple below the surface. This prevented any further mold from appearing, but a white sludge did appear to grow on the top. On day 4, I skimmed this off (if you’ve made fermented pickles, you are familiar with this process) before reading that this is unnecessary. The white bacteria is to be expected and you should not be alarmed.
I peeked on day 5 to see how the progress was going, and found a VERY vigorous fermentation. When I poked my nose in, this is what I found.
The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.
Once the fermentation had slowed on day 6, the white sludge was gone, and what remained was a foam similar to the yeasty foam that gathers at the surface of fermented apple cider. I poured the tepache through a funnel into a gallon milk jug, taking care to remove the spices and pineapple rind, and not collecting the must that had settled at the bottom, and placed the jug in the refrigerator.
Serve the tepache over ice, with a squeeze of lime, and a dash of chile powder if you’d like. Traditionally a pinch of baking soda is sprinkled over the ice before adding the lemon and tepache to introduce some carbonation.
NOTE: If you would like to have pineapple vinegar, simply leave this to ferment for an additional week, covered with a towel at room temperature. Once fermentation has completed, simply place the vinegar in a bottle and use in recipes that call for any flavorful vinegar (ie. sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar).
Non-alcoholic Drinks of the Mercado Area
With a few exceptions, I suspect the ingredients for these will be mostly available. I will organize these into two categories; can make and common. The common drinks I will skip.
achocote [DONE]: in Hidalgo, water flavored with corn and unrefined brown sugar
agua: or agua fresca: sweetened water of many flavors, each flavor often with its own name (see jamaica, chía, and horchata)
alfajor: in western Mexico, a sweet drink based on coconut, almonds, honey and other ingredients
atole [DONE]: an important Indian drink; basic atole: is water mixed with ground-up toasted corn tortillas or ground-up toasted corn kernels.
batarete: in Sonora, an atole of ground, toasted cornmeal, coarse brown sugar, water, and salt
bate: in coastal Jalisco and Colima, a pungent drink made of the toasted, ground-up herb called chan (Hyptis suaveolens), sweetened with honey
cacao: a festive chocolate drink; one traditional recipe contains ground chocolate, corn, lima beans, and anise, beaten to a froth
chía: sweetened water flavored with the herb called chía, which is a kind of sage of the genus Salvia
chileatole: in central Mexico, a salted corn atole flavored variously, for example with green chili, sweet corn, squash-plant shoots, and epazote(Mexican tea)
chorote: in Tabasco, a cold drink prepared from cooked corn, ground toasted cacao, and sugar
cuajada: a very thick drink based on milk; like liquid yogurt
horchata: sweet emulsion of water with finely ground almonds, or sometimes ground melon seeds or rice flour; often flavored with acid pulp of the tamarind pod
jamaica: tea of hibiscus blossoms, water, and sugar
jocoatole: in western Mexico, an atole of black corn flavored with ground squash seed and salt
nieve: ice-drink coming in many flavors, especially fruit
pinol: or pinole: an emulsion of corn and water, usually sweetened and flavored with cinnamon, anise, etc.
piznate: in Nayarit, a corn and water drink flavored with unrefined brown sugar and cinnamon
podzol: in Tabasco, prepared by stirring ground, sprouted kernels of corn into cold water; flavored with salt and chili
pozol: corn paste mixed in water, often sweetened or salted, and variously flavored
sangrita: in western Mexico, a mixture of orange juice, sugar, ground onion, chili, salt, and vegetable color
tescalate: a combination of masa, cacao, cinnamon or chile, and achiote (http://gospelmissionary.blogspot.com/2009/08/recipe-for-tascalate.html)
gaseoso: commercially bottled soda drink
jugo de naranja: orange juice
refresco: “refreshment”; usually refers to a commercially bottled soda
Alcoholic Drinks of the Mercado Area
So long as I can source all of the main ingredients, I suspect the following beverages can be made. I have organized them by my suspected method of creation; fermented or mixed (from store-bought ingredients).
batari: in Chihuahua, a tesgüino made by the Tarahumara Indians of ground-up, germinated and fermented corn kernels
charanda: name for various drinks, some made from fermenting agave sap, others from sugarcane juice
chicha: variously prepared, as from fermented pineapple, unrefined brown sugar, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and ginger
colonche: in central Mexico, made from the fermentation of macerated cactus fruit and sugar
garapiña: same as chicha
mistela or mustela: in southern Mexico, various recipes made with a variety of fruits such as the nance, mango, and plum; typically the fruit is fermented with water and alcohol until hardened, then sealed and fermented for another year
podzol: in Tabasco, fermented, ground, sprouted corn kernels, flavored with salt and chili
pozol or pozole: in southeastern Mexico, drink from fermented corn paste flavored with salt or chili
sugiki: same as batari
taberna: in Isthmus of Tehuantepec area, made by fermentation of juice from a local palm tree
tejuino: in western Mexico, among Huichol Indians, drink of fermented corn, with added alcohol
tepache [DONE]: fermented drink made from the of a variety of plants, especially sugarcane and pineapple, with brown sugar; sometimes pulque is added
tesgüino, tesgüín, or tejuino: in northern Mexico, a weakly alcoholic drink made from fermenting corn, or sometimes agave juice, and unrefined brown sugar
tuba: drink from fermentation of juice from different kinds of palm, especially the coconut palm, often flavored with pineapple, limon, chili, etc.
chorreado: in Mexico State, Morelos and Guerrero, a mixture of whiskey, milk, chocolate, sugar, and, sometimes, egg
ponche: punch (ponche de fruta = fruit punch)
rompope: typically based on milk, almonds and egg yolk
tecuí: in Mexico State, alcohol and fruit juice, especially juice of orange, limon, or pineapple
teporocha: in Mexico State, a mixture of alcohol and soda drink
torito: dozens of recipes; in Mexico State, it is often tequila or rum mixed with orange juice, vinegar, onion and chili pepper; in Guerrero, mescal cured with vinegar, green chili pepper, onion, tomato, and cheese; in Veracruz, rum with fruits, such as guava, mamey, limon and peanuts, mixed with condensed milk, regular milk, and ice
yolispa: in central Mexico, a drink made with whisky, honey and herbs
huazamoteco: in Durango, alcohol diluted with water, with tequila
I have determined that these beverages likely cannot be made due to the fact that they are distilled liquors or have a constituent ingredient that is rare. Yes, I can buy rum or whiskey, for example, at the liquor store, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m not interested in these.
[*] = Pulque may be available in NYC at the restaurant and bar Pulqueria. Depending on the availability (to go?), I may be able to include these items.
[*] aguamiel: precursor to pulque.
aguardiente: aguardiente, brandy
aguardiente de caña: rum
anís: mixture of alcohol, water, and essence of anise
bacamora or bacanora: a kind of Indian-made mescal
caxtila: In the Sierra de Zongolica, Veracruz, a rum prepared by the Nahua Indians
[*] charape: in Michoacán and northern Guerrero, variously prepared, most simply from fermenting pulque with water solution of unrefined brown sugar
chichihualco: in Guerrero, made from fermented agave sap
chumiate: in Mexico State, a name for fruit liqueurs
comiteco: especially in Chiapas, a drink made from agave sap
[*] curado: name applied to too many kinds of drinks to specify
damiana; in Sinaloa, a fermented infusion of the herb known as damiana, of the genus Turnera
habanero: in Tabasco, a local rum; in Yucatán, made from the tropical tree-fruit called nance
kahlúa: a coffee-flavored liqueur
mezcal: mescal, distilled from pulque (see below)
mosco or mosquio: a liquor based on oranges or orange peel
nevado: in Puebla and Mexico State, fruit liquors
[*] nochotle: among the Mixtecs of central Mexico, a drink made by adding juice from the prickly-pear cactus, nopal cardón, to pulque
posh: in Chiapas, a whisky based on sugarcane juice
[*] pulque: pulque — in central Mexico, a mildly intoxicating drink made by fermenting the sap, or aguamiel, of the maguey agave
resacado: a high-grade whiskey
sotol: in Jalisco and Nayarit, a distilled drink using fermented sap of the desert yucca called sotol, of the genus Dasylirion
tequila: especially from Jalisco, made from fermented sap of a maguey-like agave
tuxca: same as mescal
verdín: In southeastern Mexico, a liquor made from aromatic leaves of the tree called hoja santa, and fennel or anise
whisky or wiski: whiskey
xanath: a vanilla-flavored liqueur
xtabentún: an anise-flavored liqueur
zotol: in Chihuahua, the same as sotol
For starters, this blog will mostly center around the lists (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) I mentioned in the previous post. However, before I can start, I need to differentiate between the beverages I am able to make, and those that I am not.
There are a variety of reasons why I might be unable to make a beverage. Looking at the list of alcoholic drinks, the main barrier I’ll encounter is lack of ability to distill alcohol. I’m in a 500 sq. ft. apartment, and even if I had the equipment to distill, I seriously doubt I’d be able to arrive at a workable finished product.
Another barrier is access to ingredients. A few of these, such as nochotle for example, require pulque. As far as I can tell, this is an ingredient that is unavailable to me State-side. Though, we shall see…
In the posts to follow, I will deconstruct the two lists to better analyze which recipes I think I will and will not be able to make.
Note: Another link I should keep an eye on: Diccionario de bebidas tradicionales de México (Spanish)